Scoping study for sustainable broadleaf weed control in cucurbit crops (VG10048)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
Weeds were a significant problem for many Australian cucurbit producers (including in pumpkins, melons, cucumber, and zucchini), given the sprawling nature of cucurbit vines and the lack of registered herbicides suitable for selective control of broadleaf weeds.
This project, funded by Hort Innovation (which was then Horticulture Australia Limited), was a first step in identifying the impact of weeds in cucurbit production, and areas in which weed control may have been improved.
Weeds had a significant impact on cucurbit crop yield and quality, making crop management problematic. Significant weeds included fat hen (Chenopodium album), blackberry nightshade (Solanum nigrum), caltrop/cathead (Tribulus terrestris), pigweed/purslane (Portulaca oleracea), African lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula), barnyard grass (Echinochloa spp.), and nutgrass (Cyperus rotundus).
The strategy used by many growers to control weeds in cucurbit crops at the time included a mixture of herbicides, plastic mulch, cultivation, chipping, crop rotation and farm hygiene. Diligence and timing were important factors in a successful approach.
This study identified innovative approaches including soil solarisation, biofumigation, cover crops, bioherbicides and biodegradable mulch films. There were also several herbicides registered overseas for use in cucurbit crops that were not registered in Australia at the time.
These and other innovations needed to be explored fully. The limited range of herbicides registered for use in cucurbit crops restricts growers’ ability to control weeds. Furthermore, plastic mulch may have become more expensive in the future due to rising disposal costs, while it may have become less acceptable as a crop management method due to environmental impact concerns.
Given these findings, the following areas for future research were identified:
- Conducting case studies to improve our understanding of the impact of weeds on cucurbit growers;
- Studying the most important weeds in detail, and identifying the best way to control these in cucurbit crops;
- Evaluating a range of innovative weed control techniques, either used overseas or by organic growers, to determine their relevance to ‘conventional’ cucurbit producers;
- Trialling and, if appropriate, registering additional herbicides to improve the range of products available to growers; and
- Making sure that relevant and up to date information on weed control actually reached cucurbit growers.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of the vegetables industry.
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